Area gyms have proliferated, mirroring national trend

Rob Oshinskie, owner of Victory Sports and Fitness, works with Lonni Koudela, 17, of State College, at the gym in the South Hills Plaza.
Rob Oshinskie, owner of Victory Sports and Fitness, works with Lonni Koudela, 17, of State College, at the gym in the South Hills Plaza. CDT photo

Lonnie Koudela works out five days a week at Victory Sports and Fitness.

Koudela, 17, began the routine his freshman year at State College Area High School, hoping to excel on the football field. He will play football for Bloomsburg University in the fall.

“You have to do it to keep up with everyone else doing it,” he said. “You have to do it to stay on top of your game.”

Reaching the next level in sports is not the goal for everyone who joins a gym, but the belief among fitness industry business owners seems to be that more people want to be physically active and healthy than in the past.

“I think there are a lot of gyms, but also a lot of needs in this community,” Curves franchise owner Sue Hanna said.

A Centre Daily Times study identified 31 fitness centers, including gyms, yoga studios and martial arts studios, in and around the State College area. There are 14 businesses that opened prior to 2010 and 17 in the past five years.

It is not known how many fitness-related business have closed within the past five years. It is also not known how many fitness-related businesses were in business in 2009.

Hanna, who did not have the exact records for when the State College location opened, said it would have been in the late 1990s. She has owned the State College and Bellefonte Curves franchises for about four years. The Bellefonte location was not included in the study.

“This is a diverse community,” she said. “You have people that are career athletes, people that are young and want to work at their own pace and older people that want to stay active. It’s a really diverse community with different desires, and in that respect I think that’s reflected in the growing number of gyms here.”

Hayward’s Yoga in State College owner Doug Hayward opened his studio in downtown State College in 1998.

“I was kind of it for a while except for the yoga studio at the Center for Well-Being,” Hayward said. “If you wanted to be a yoga instructor at that point you had to travel to the YMCAs to teach yoga. There was also a reasonable amount of gyms open, but not as many as today.”

The proliferation of fitness-related businesses in the State College area fits, and may be outpacing, a national trend.

The number of gym, health and fitness clubs increased by 2.3 percent annually from 2009 to 2014, according to a December IBISWorld market research report.

Health and racquet clubs increased 8.1 percent from 2009 to 2013, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association.

“Part of it is because the economy has been improving since 2009,” IHRSA senior research manager Melissa Rodriguez said. “Also, there is variety of different clubs and studios that can meet different needs, which is not uncommon for areas that can sustain multiple models in one area. There is a demand, too. With economic improvement there is more disposable income, and I think, overall, people are becoming more heath conscious.”

Local business owners in the industry are not concerned by how fast the local industry has grown.

Hanna said Curves memberships have been steady over the past five years. Hayward and Victory Sports and Fitness co-owner Rob Oshinskie said they’ve each seen an increase in people using their facilities.

“I think the fitness industry as a whole has moved into niche markets, so if you look at us we are geared toward niche markets even though we have a large facility,” Oshinskie said. “We don’t attempt to be everything for everyone. Just if you look at Crossfit, it’s a good example of a fitness concept geared toward a small percentage of the population, but they meet needs and wants of that population. From our perspective, we’ve done the same thing.”

Victory Sports and Fitness, Oshinskie said, targets young and professional athletes and active adults who want a high quality of life.

Hayward Yoga has increased its memberships by about 20 percent in the past five years, according to Hayward, in part because the studio has expanded its services with more instructors.

“We have diversity and a lot of different yoga styles,” Hayward said. “I don’t mind there being different styles at the studio. Some studios have one style, and that’s it, and that can work, too. We’ve expanded a little bit because of different class offerings to reach more people, and that has worked for us.”

The YMCA of Centre County chief operating officer Scott Mitchell said the organization has had about 10 percent growth at its State College location in the past two years. The YMCA was not included in the study, because it is a nonprofit organization

“I believe people in this community enjoy healthy lifestyles, and being able to provide different options is important,” he said. “The YMCA is unique and separate, I believe, from those entities. I think if you talk about the YMCA and gyms or studios, you’re comparing apples and oranges. We’re family-based and go above and beyond wellness. I think you want people to feel a connection with your facility and staff, and I believe the YMCA offers those components for everyone in the family.”

The elephant in the gym or studio, however, is whether the community can support so many new fitness-related businesses, seven of which opened in the past nine months.

There is no slowing down nationally, according to IBISWorld, which forecasts the fitness industry to grow at a faster pace in the next five years, because public health campaigns that raise awareness about health and fitness, the company predicts, will prompt more fitness-related businesses to open.

“The reality is that specific to universities and local communities this is popping,” Rodriguez said. “It can seem counterproductive, but they’re making it work. In Boston, I can think of a street where there are several universities and about a dozen gyms and clubs on the same street. It’s not uncommon.”

When asked if the local growth of the fitness industry was sustainable, one business owner, who requested anonymity, laughed.

“The cream will rise to the top,” he said.